SeaDream Yacht Club UK manager Jos Dewing looks at why the sector will draw its regular punters back
I’m sorry if it reads like a click-bait title, but as a marketing-led person at heart, it can be quite challenging to play the industry cheerleader right now in the world of cruising… the reason being that you start to feel that pushing the positive narrative can be viewed as naive, or worse still, inflammatory.
I genuinely don’t feel it should be like that though, nor should we feel guilty about celebrating an industry that has done so many things so well and for so many years. Or in fact for pushing positive click-bait, as there is plenty of negative to counter. This is an industry mature enough to embrace challenges and positives, however small or slow-paced they may feel in the wider cruising context. Each week it seems the positive green-shoot stories are offset by larger negative ones. One cruise line eases back into operation and another sadly closes its operation, rivers given the green light by the FCO for UK guests, ocean kept in limbo.
You’re ok, you’re not… We’re ok, they’re not… Mainstream media can be defender in one story and prosecutor in the next, with some choosing to be judge and jury too. It just seems to be how this pandemic is playing out on travel and it’s not particularly joined up. That’s the result of an unseen and unknown enemy, a disruptive force on something that just ‘worked’, not so long ago.
It’s true to say many variables remain and the global situation is equally dynamic. Not even the most respected minds on the planet (scientific, commercial or political) really know how and when life as we knew it will return to normal. Some industry leaders say cruise should wait for a vaccine, some scientists say a vaccine may never be found, it’s a troublesome debate and an equally troublesome period where divisions are inevitable. Written opinion pieces and projected views age very quickly because the landscape and foundation of thought during this crisis is frankly quicksand.
There is a sense that you need to be careful in what you say as this is not a good time for unflagging dedication to push unhelpful or misleading agendas to support an industry. Yet there is also a sense that the industry needs the ‘glass half full’ advocacy too, the determined notion that cruising is on its way back, to motivate guests to book again and get entirely innocent furloughed staff back doing what they love.
We all know this is an industry that owns a product that truly gets under your skin and there is a powerful and collective will for it to get back on its feet. We are also reminded by days like June 25, the International Day of the Seafarer, of the truly remarkable people based at sea that make this extraordinary industry work.
I find it healthy to consider things that will always exist, whatever changes occur and for however long they are required to stay in place. Some are consistent with cruise travel, are well-known to the guest and are also the triggers opening things back up in terms of bookings. In no particular order:
1) The sailaway: It’s hard to describe the electricity in the air and atmosphere onboard a ship when you depart from your embarkation port. There is a magic to it that is hard to find a comparable to. This is an experience that is always special, whether you are travelling alone and embracing it just for yourself (which I have done many times) or are in the company of family or friends.
2) The crew: I’ve never been let down or seen flaws that would lead me to question the service. Cruise crews are omnipresent, caring, consistent, professional and frankly the glue that binds the industry together, whilst making it unique. They care, it’s personal and you know that they will never change. It’s easy to say that we are family, but it does resonate on cruise ships through personal service levels.
3) Kodak moments: Some of the best parts of being on a cruise are being the observer of passing natural, cultural and even man-made beauty. Some of the most magical times I have been at sea have been standing on deck, alone, watching the oceans pass by and what a spectacle that often is. It can be hypnotic and these views and sense of moment won’t change. These are times that often prompt you to pinch yourself that you are there.
4) Service: It’s impossible to imagine anything stopping the service levels you expect from a cruise ship. And you expect them because you know how consistent and high those levels are. Service is service and ships know how to do it. It’s a different environment to many other areas where service is measured. It’s a family vibe and you are welcomed to the family as a member, not a visitor. It’s something very special.
5) Health and hygiene: Cruise lines have been dealing with the risk of infectious outbreaks that can incapacitate a ship and a cruise for decades. I don’t say that lightly either, having run a cruise line myself. The large majority of cruise passengers have always known that cruising posed a unique environment should a virus take hold. Up until 2020, that was largely Norovirus. Cruise ships are well trained and prepared for the prevention of sudden onset virus’ but also for handling the event of an outbreak.
To conclude, many past guests feel a sense of loss if they don’t have a cruise booked. It’s something to savour, a future date that will require planning, anticipation and excitement. There are many things that can wait in life, but for many cruisers, having something booked on the oceans and rivers cannot…
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